By Drew Lyon
Special to The Free Press
She didn’t start the game, nor did she reach double figures, but Mankato East point guard Minnie Frederick was just happy to get back on the court after an ankle injury forced her to sit out last Saturday’s loss to Owatonna.
“I was scared to tweak it more,” Frederick admitted after playing about 19 minutes in the Cougars’ 58-44 Big Nine girls basketball win over Mankato West on Tuesday at East Gym. “But our trainer told me it couldn’t get any worse, only better.
“I wanted to play during the Owatonna game, but I probably couldn’t have played even if I tried. This was East-West, so nothing was going to stop me from playing. I just tried my hardest and luckily I got used to it during the game.”
Before the game, East coach Mike Barger and Frederick reached a compromise: She would play, but her minutes would be closely monitored.
“I told her it was going to be a little sore tomorrow but she really wanted to play,” Barger said. “She was OK with (not starting). I think it was good for her; she just needed to get her confidence back.”
After a Lauren Resner bucket, West held an early 9-4 advantage four minutes into the game. Barger then inserted Frederick after a timeout. She quickly scored her only field goal, a top-of-the-key 3-pointer, to cut the deficit to 13-11. Two minutes later, the Cougars led 18-15 after a Bria Armstrong bank-shot 3-pointer, and they didn’t trail again. Though she labored through her injury, which appeared to hamper her quickness, Frederick made her presence felt.
“All of the sudden, we had the lead,” Barger said. “We had a little half-court trouble, but we put Minnie in there, and we did a lot better. Even injured, she’s a big part of what we do.”
Frederick sat out the final four minutes of the half, returning late in the game, but East continued to pad the lead, as a run of put-backs from Claire Ziegler, Allison Taylor and Taylor Karge put the Cougars ahead 31-27 at halftime.
The Scarlets took advantage of an East cold spell to begin the second half. West scored on a Lexi Schoper 3-pointer and a Cara Christiansen layup and cut East’s lead to seven points at the 13:36 mark.
“We started slow,” Barger said. “West made some adjustments, and we were slow to adjust to their adjustments. We’ve got to work through that, because in the playoffs, you’ve got to be ready to respond.”
East forward Abby Connell stepped in and drained three 3-pointers in a two-minute span, and East led 46-32 with 7:45 remaining.
“It’s great when she does that,” Barger said. “There were times when I’m yelling, ‘Be patient!’ And she’s in the corner shooting a 3. But when she’s feeling it, it’s going to go in.”
Connell finished with a game-high 18 points.
“That streak they went on really hurt us,” West head coach Kristin Krusemark said. “We just couldn’t recover from it.”
Ziegler added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Cougars, while Taylor followed with 11 points and seven rebounds. Christiansen led West with 12 points, and Schoper finished with 10 points.
Both teams conclude their regular-season schedules Friday. The Cougars (21-4) play at home versus Faribault, and the Scarlets (5-15) travel to Owatonna.